Communication is what the internet is all about. The world wide web is one huge gathering of voices, of people expressing themselves in many different ways. People use the web to talk to one another about anything and everything. And they can also use the web to talk about you.
Contrary to the physical world where you can rarely know if people are talking about you and your business, in the online world there are many ways to find out if others are having conversations about your organization. Everything that is online can be searched, indexed, compiled and found. The trouble is finding out where the conversations are happening. Fortunately there are quite a few tools available to help keep you updated on what others are saying about you.
First and foremost you have Google Alerts. This very straightforward service lets you subscribe via email to any new piece of internet content that matches your alert query. It will send you an email with the latest article, web page, video, and blog post that matches the keywords you submitted.
This sounds like the perfect solution, but it has a catch: you need to define your query well to prevent getting swamped with non-relevant alerts. Set your alert query too generic and you’ll get hundreds, or even thousands, of alerts in your inbox, most of which will be entirely irrelevant to your business.
A good idea is to set your company name as a Google Alert. Unless your business has a very generic name, this will ensure that you’ll only receive alerts when your company is actually mentioned in an online publication. You could also set alerts for your product brand names, the names of high profile employees, and of course your competitors.
Another very useful tool is Google Blog Search. This is a specialized search engine that only searches in blog posts. Blogs are becoming increasingly important and valuable as a form of citizen journalism, and some successful blogs can make or break the reputations of international corporations. It’s important to be aware of when and how a blogger is talking about your business.
Knowing when people are talking about you online is just the first step. Next you’ll want to join the conversation. But be careful when responding to news articles or blog posts – don’t be aggressive. Join the conversation with a civil tone – this is a public conversation after all and you don’t want to come across as a jerk.
Don’t be afraid to contact the blogger or journalist directly via email instead of openly discussing matters in the comments section. Just be sure to always stay friendly and positive, just as you would with a customer on the phone or in person. One unhappy customer in the real world may not harm your business much, but online everything is stored forever and publicly available to anyone – one negative online argument can come back to haunt you years later.